Why do so many people associate anarchy with chaos and destruction, when it’s simply being free from a state?

[ 17/December/21 ]

There seem to be two different and very complex things conflated into one gross simplification in this question.

The term anarch in history meant without a chief or a head or a lead. Compare it to a monarch – a singular leader, or a tetrarch.

In modern use the term anarchy means without rules or governance.

If one takes a modern understanding of the evolution of complex systems, then it is clear that every level of complexity has necessary sets of boundary conditions that must exist for that level of complexity to emerge and survive. When one looks deeply into that, then it becomes clear that every new level of complexity is based upon new levels of cooperation. And that rapidly gets complex because raw cooperation is vulnerable to exploitation by various levels of “cheating” strategies, and thus requires emergent and evolving ecosystems of cheat detection and mitigation strategies.

So if one takes an overly simplistic idea of anarchy, then it is necessarily destructive, if it removes any of the sets of constraints that are actually required for the existence of any level of complexity.

If, however, one acknowledges all the necessary sets of constraints (and what is necessary can be very context sensitive, and in complex systems has some degree of fundamental uncertainty associated with it), then one can consider anything other than such a minimum set as unnecessary.

Where things start to get extremely tricky is where multiple levels of awareness and agency are present simultaneously, and some may be unaware of even the possibility of the existence of other levels of agent; and be unable to imagine what the necessary sets of boundaries are for those other classes and levels of agents.

The only sort of anarchy that is survivable, is one in which every agent assumes the most profound levels of responsibility that they are capable of, and is prepared to negotiate boundary conditions with any other agent they encounter.

Without such responsibility, without some reasonable understanding of the immense complexity present, and an understanding of the drivers of human neural networks to simplify the irreducibly complex, then attempts at anarchy necessarily result in chaos and destruction, as ignorant agents quite unintentionally break the necessary sets of constraints required for the survival of the levels and classes of agents present.

So while I am at heart an anarchist in the highest sense, I acknowledge that such anarchy is only survivable if all agents are acting responsibly, and are making their best efforts to become less ignorant and less wrong over time.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) with reasonable security, tools, resources and degrees of freedom, and reasonable examples of the natural environment; and that is going to demand responsibility from all of us - see
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